House Republicans urge Trump to end Iranian oil waivers

Iranian oil exports must end, Congressional Republicans urged in a letter to President Trump on Friday, ahead of a May deadline to renew oil waivers.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), joined by 34 other members, argues that the Administration’s campaign of maximum pressure on Iran must include bringing Iranian exports to zero.

“Cutting Iran’s oil exports to zero remains a key, and as yet unfulfilled, part of your Administration’s maximum pressure campaign,” the group of House Republicans wrote in the letter. “Forcing Iran off of its oil money would leave the country’s leaders with a choice: they can either finance their own malicious terror schemes abroad or they can support the Iranian people at home.”

At least eight countries benefit from the U.S. waivers which allow them to continue purchasing Iranian oil, though the waivers do come with instructions to reduce the amount imported. On May 2, the Administration must decide whether to allow China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey and South Korea to continue to import Iranian oil. Japan, which received a waiver, has stopped importing Iranian oil.

“Tehran benefits from these oil exceptions… These exceptions make it easier for Iran to fund terrorism that threatens not only the Untied States but our allies, including Israel,” the letter continued.

The letter by House Republicans echoes statements by GOP Senators, among them, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK), who have called for the Administration to end the waiver program when it expires in May.

Earlier this week, GOP senators also pushed for the Administration to end waivers for Iran’s civilian nuclear program, writing in a letter to President Trump that the civilian program is likely a front for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“The Trump administration should end all implementation of the deal, including the nuclear and oil waivers the State Department has been issuing, and Senator Cruz will use all options available to him to push the administration to do so,” Billy Gribbin, a spokesman for Sen. Cruz, told Bloomberg News.

Last month, the State Department told House GOP members it weighs ending waivers for Iranian oil purchases with efforts by countries to bring their own imports to zero and preserving global oil prices, in a letter shared with Jewish Insider. Yet this cautious approach is in opposition to more hard-line positions taken by White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has argued for an end to the waivers, Bloomberg News reported.  

The letter released on Friday only featured signatures from House Republicans. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a signatory to Friday’s letter, told Jewish Insider on April 3 that he supported the Administration’s procedure to help countries end dependence on Iranian oil but that it may take longer than the May 2 deadline. “I’ve had many conversations with the State Department and I understand the strategy in what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “Different countries are on different timelines… some countries are at zero, other countries have now gotten to zero, other countries are getting to zero and they’ve shown that they are on a pathway to zero.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), told Jewish Insider earlier this month, that he’d support renewing waivers to purchase Iranian oil. “I don’t think we should cut off all waivers. I was opposed to leaving the Iran agreement, so the rest of that flows from that starting point,” he said.

Laura Kelly is the Capitol Hill reporter for Jewish Insider. Follow her @HelloLauraKelly

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